I think it will take a very mighty effort to counter your logic here, sir. I expect that people for their various old dog against new tricks habits will make that attempt, but I will tune out their barking. They can't chew through steel.

I am one of those people who has always had a fairly clear understanding of the difference between race and culture. It owes to the fact that I am old enough to remember that my birth certificate said 'Negroid', a term almost nobody uses any longer. Further, mine was one of the first families to celebrate Kwanzaa in the light of Black Consciousness and Black Arts movements. But even then, my family made the distinctions between the philosophical explorations of Dr. Alfred Ligon and the revolutionary politics of the day.

It may not have occurred to many Americans to disambiguate the distinctions of African Americans, personally, spiritually, politically, economically or otherwise until the 80s. Most of us remember the initial disbelief that The Cosby Show was realistic. Certainly by the late 80s, a good number of academics recognized that 'the black community' was a myth and initiated the term 'African-American'. What a relief for us 'Negroids'. Then next, Afrocentrics stepped onto the stage, as well as retro ideological and cultural movements. Some folks were thinking Pan-African thoughts again. Some folks were thinking hiphop might replace jazz, while others blended the two. Neo soul broke out later.

There are countless ways that Americans have identified themselves with various cultural and political movements, but even those ways were not central to their identities. It is only the ever-present authoritarian impulse that tells us we must settle such social questions once and for all. Some even have the nerve to suggest that a racial model from the 17th century should guide our thinking.

Liberty demands that we free ourselves from such narrow constraints. Even old dogs can get off the chain. Don't try to tell me that racial identity is my destiny. I'm glad you're not buying it either.

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Nov 9, 2022·edited Nov 9, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

I prefer ethnicity to race as an identifying category, as it can include race but also geography, history, culture, language, nationality, etc.

My partner is an Armenian immigrant from Tehran. For centuries, Iran has had an Armenian population that speaks Armenian, and has its own neighorhoods, towns, churches and schools. My partner's native languages are Armenian, which she spoke in her neighborhood and with her family, and Persian. As with many non-Westerners, she does not consider skin color a race. In fact, she insists it isn't. In the United States, Armenians have alternately been labelled as "white," "yellow" and "brown." However, if you ask her what race she is, she'll always respond "I'm Armenian." Perhaps, some Americans will consider her response an evasion of the question, but Armenian is how she identifies and sees herself.

I went to a lecture on Islam by two Somali immigrants. One said that they don't like it when Americans call them black, because "that's not how we view people." In Somalia, everyone is black-skinned, so they don't categorize and differentiate by skin color.

I'm Jewish, and if one asks me what race I am, I respond, "I'm Jewish." Even if with light skin, being Jewish doesn't neartly fit in to the simplistic American color codes.

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Nov 10, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

I always like Your essays, Sir Thomas, but I think this may have been Your best. At least I can say my view of race was broadened a lot. It was very thought-provoking, as indicated by the mostly-great comments. TYTY.

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beautifully written and conceived. A must read.

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Since all humans are of the Homo sapiens species and form their own family of Hominids or Hominoids, we should identify as that family, not as a race. Within that family there are populations sharing phenotypes (characteristics ) that other populations do not share to any major extent. These are what people today call races. To solve the problem, drop the word "race" and use Hominid to indicate we are all the same species within the same family.

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Nov 10, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

As someone who was blessed to have grown up in Queens, NYC, which may just be the most ethnically diverse place on earth, I've always thought of all the different peoples I've encountered as more or less "tribes" (for lack of a better term), and always wondered why we can't jettison the concept of race and think of African Americans as just one more tribe among many.

(I've said this to various black friends over the years and was met mostly with, "That's easy for you to say, you're not black!" but I still think the point holds and I've never meant it as a way to erase African American history or suffering.)

But as a kid I would spend time with say the Colombian tribe, then the Jewish tribe, then the Italians or Armenians or Dominicans then the AA tribe etc etc, and my feeling is eliminating the toxic lie that is Race would bring down barriers and discomfort (on both sides) and allow African Americans to just be one tribe among many instead of this constant blaring symbol of American history and oppression.

But I just don't see this happening in my lifetime. Race is basically a synonym for America at this point, it is the American sickness and obsession, and it still shocks me talking to Americans how just about every issue becomes about Race aka Black v White.

But I commend the writer for having the bravery to even publicly discuss the topic, and at the very least trying to ratchet down racialization is a good idea that could make it just a little bit easier for all of us to live together.

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Excellent post. I hope we can come to cherish our race and cultural differences, and recognize that being American connects us all.

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Thanks for this clear exposition. As a neuroscientist I understand race as a political construct and would appreciate an opportunity to contribute to dismantle it too.

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Nov 9, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

When I've taught about identity in cultural anthropology, a philosophy class titled human nature, in humanities or indigenous religions, I know I'm dealing with a puzzle--individual and shared. I end up pretty much as where Greg Thomas does, but I'm a bit more devious. For example, take the average family size (actually average household size). Let's say it is 2.2 people in 2020 in the country X. I ask my students have they ever seen a family (or household) with 2.2 people. No, of course not. But we talk about the average family all the time. There's the analytic way of statistically slicing and dicing large populations and then there's what we encounter in our lives. I'm always wondering whether our conversations on identity slip between the two -- the one that really doesn't exist (that analytic abstraction) and what we believe as we encounter others. Here, I've open the door to my devious teaching style. Let's move on to a meditation from the 13th century mystic , Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī -- or simply Rumi. He denies every facet of his identity in order to get to the true reality:

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu

Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace

of the traceless. Neither body or soul.


I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.

Let's note two things. First, we can meditate ourselves out of all our identities to that "breathing human being." Most likely for a nanosecond or two. Our lived reality, psychologically and culturally defined for each of us, sucks us back into the stereotypes we've grown into. LSD also helps, but that's another story. Second, I added in some question marks [????]. You can see what's missing in all those identities that Rumi conjured up for us. He doesn't have "race" or the colors of "black" and "white." This helps us realize that our insertion of "race" into his meditation would give us our ethnocentric perspective. So, of course, we step outside that identity configuration, work at it for more than those nanoseconds, but we also resonate with forms (music, writing, family, the way we walk, etc.). I like Thomas's "rooted cosmopolitanism" where we can step in and out of cookie-cutter identity stereotypes.

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Nov 14, 2022·edited Nov 14, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

As a graduate student in the 1990s-- more than fifty years after Ashley Montagu wrote Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race (1942)-- I was reading and teaching Ralph Ellison's "Little Man at Chehaw Station" (1978), David Hollinger's unsurpassed Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (1995), and countless critiques of "race" that concluded the race concept was hopelessly incoherent and inevitably oppressive-- a social construct we'd all be better off without. The revival of the race concept in recent years has been disheartening, given the intellectual progress made against it in earlier decades.

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This essay is a cool and sweet breath of fresh air. Bless you. Thank you.

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Nov 13, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

I’m a big fan of Roland Fryer, but the study that you referenced that at least 1/3 of the gap between white and black workers is due to discrimination was always weird to me because it was a major outlier among the studies produced examining pay gaps with the proper controls. On a side note, in the study they say 7% of pay gap is due to discrimination, which is weird because they just said at least 33%. Even with that June E. O’Neil found that in the job market, region, test scores and all other controls reveals that 1-2% is due to racial discrimination which was backed up by Wilfred Reilly in his research. There was a recent study in 2020 by shrm that found the exact same thing, while controlling for everything except test scores or IQ scores, which does matter though I don’t believe much because controlling for education and experience filters out incompetent people. If anyone can help me answer this question, why do you think Rolands’ results are so different than these other studies, which are seemingly consistent? Other than that your article is well written and it makes a phenomenal case for deracialization, I have no complaints.


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Nov 11, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

Is technology culture? Is one more important than the other?

Suppose SETI, Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence, announced that they were picking up obviously artificial signals, something like an alien Morse code. But it was from 300 light years away. So somebody had radio 200 years before humans.

They must know something about physics and creating technology. But what about culture? They could not know Shakespeare, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus Christ. What would culture matter? They probably must have some but totally inhuman.

If we can't deal with this technology what will culture matter? Maybe we need intellectual segregation but assimilate the science and technology.

Black Man's Burden by Mack Reynolds

Free in Project Gutenberg

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"If throughout the span of recorded history, human beings had always sorted based on external physical characteristics and ancestry, then a strong case could be made that this is simply the way humans classify one another. However, although the cognitive practice of categorization is common among humans, the racialization chart above makes clear that the practice was codified in the United States in the 1700s. "

While I'll concede that particular abstractions and "codifications" about race became more prominent at certain periods in history, such as the "white" and "black" abstraction, we find examples of "racialization" -- in the sense of conceiving a group of people as belonging to a common biological ancestral lineage of some sort or another throughout human history and anthropology. Perhaps most relevant to "western civilization" is the ancient greeks and jews, where we find lots of concern about genealogies and blood lines. Here is a quote from Herodotus, The Histories, where the Athenians are speaking to the Spartans:

"Such was their answer to Alexander, but to the Spartan envoys they said, “It was most human that the Lacedaemonians should fear our making an agreement with the barbarian. We think that it is an ignoble thing to be afraid, especially since we know the Athenian temper to be such that there is nowhere on earth such store of gold or such territory of surpassing fairness and excellence that the gift of it should win us to take the Persian part and enslave Hellas. [2] For there are many great reasons why we should not do this, even if we so desired; first and foremost, the burning and destruction of the adornments and temples of our gods, whom we are constrained to avenge to the utmost rather than make pacts with the perpetrator of these things, and next the kinship of all Greeks in blood and speech, and the shrines of gods and the sacrifices that we have in common, and the likeness of our way of life, to all of which it would not befit the Athenians to be false." Hdt. 8.144

"Kinship in blood" is racial. The Athenians viewed the Spartans as belonging to the same blood, ie race -- the Greeks. And because of that, they suggested they would behave differently toward them. In essence a kind of racial tribalism that we still see today among people who express special loyalty to people who they think share their race. I think that is immoral, but it has existed for all of human history and through many human civilizations, from the "east" to the "west." "White" people didn't invent it in the 1700s.

And of course when it comes to Judaism, its foundational myth of Abraham and the "Chosen People" is racial. In the mythology, Abraham's biological descendants are promised land by Jehovah. Eventually, as the story goes, Moses guided the Hebrews, who were supposedly descended from Abraham, out of Egypt and into the promise land, where he and his followers proceeded to brutally murder and enslave various tribes / ethnic groups that were already living there. Racialization is *biblical*. Just as slavery is.

"On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, "'To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates – the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.'"

Genesis 15:18–21

'When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods; so the anger of the LORD will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly. But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire. "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth."

Deuteronomy 7:1-6

People were even committing racialized genocide long before the abstractions of "white" and "black" were invented. It is even recorded in the bible that the imagined god that most Americans, including most black people, worship commanded Moses to do it.

I agree with you that people should not embrace racial tribalization, but I think race as a concept is coherent insofar as it refers to the notion of some sort of wide biological lineage. Hence, the notion of a "human race" would be valid since it is the superset of all possible sets of biological lineages. But its also logically and empirically valid to arbitrarily split apart and group biological lineages and assign them a name. It might not mean much when it comes to making judgements about individuals, and it should not be used to form personal attachments, loyalties, and allegiances -- but those relationships we have to ancestors are real. Hence, "race", is a rationally coherent concept. I might think the notion of a "black" race to be morally and personally meaningless to what I value, and think that the term "black" to refer to a race of people none of whom are actually truly "black" to be a stupid choice of word as is "white" for the same reason; nonetheless, its still rational to believe that I am more "racially" related to people who are now commonly labeled as "black" than I am racially related to people who are now labeled "asian". Although, Im just as racially related to people who are now commonly labeled as "white" as I am to people who are now commonly labeled as "black." Some I will be more and some I will be less--if "racially related" simply refers to the distance, for example, before we have a common ancestor.

Thus, I think "deracialization" is somewhat limited in its rationality. Some of what you said makes sense and I support, such as decoupling culture and race, and untribalizing race--but the concept of race itself, by whatever name, can logically point to a legitimate empirical reality when formulated carefully. The "science" that is connected to and performed regarding race has tended to be garbage, and continues to be, but that is a separate consideration than whether race is rationally meaningful. Regardless of whether it is rationally meaningfully, it should not be spiritually or morally meaningful. A religion or spirituality or moral system that promotes racial tribalism should be forsaken.

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Nov 10, 2022·edited Nov 10, 2022Liked by Free Black Thought

Who owns the land and how did they get it? I consider land ownership to be a legal delusion just like the ownership of human beings. As long as non-white people have to work for white people to get the money to pay them to live on the land that they own/stole why should I give a damn about this racialization pseudo-intellectual crap?

It gives people with degrees something ineffectual to talk about.

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Dear Glenn and Clifton,

I have the next step for what you're article is calling for.

Please read my previous message and I urge you to contact Me by email.


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